I had always thought I was a failure around kids. I feared I would either spoil them rotten or choke them to death. The first one was more probable though.
Then one day I was stuck into an outreach program where I was assigned to handle three kids. The first time I heard about it I was mortified…er…close to panicking to be exact. Instantly I imagined toddlers running around and ducking from my every grasp, pulling at my clothes and ruining my hair. My little sis gave me the phobia when she reached four and I was nine. (If she reads this she's going to kill me. )
Yet the havoc the little ones could cause was not really the problem. I feared they would hate me. What was I to do with them? I was never good at babysitting and most people thought I was too serious and boring.
Still I showed up at Family Park. A sense of responsibility made me. I could not resist it. I just hoped the lessons I learned in the Educational Psychology classes I took back in college would work.
When the banner was hung and chairs were positioned in the field, the children came bounding in. Children of different colors and sizes. Right away I spied two of them knocking down two chairs. I thought, oh boy, this would be one forgettable day.
Soon the children fell in line like cherubs as my colleagues and I handed them their nametags. I searched for my adopted kids Joely (age six), Jeimes (four) and Beam (14).
As I walked to and fro I saw this little slim, tan girl with long tresses and bangs watching me. Suddenly a little hand grabbed my shirtsleeve. It belonged to another little girl with shoulder-length hair.
She pulled me closer as she accused a grinning chubby boy of pushing her.
Somehow I got the boy to behave and pacified the girl with mere words, words that came out of nowhere. I then asked them if they knew Joely and they pointed at the girl with the bangs.
Getting along with Joely was easy. She was sweet and gentle. She even gave her mineral water to another girl who was thirsty. I was so proud of her I could not bear not to show it, and it was easy to tell she was pleased. Though she seemed to want to shy away out of embarrassment at my outright admiration, the flushing of her cheeks could not hide the fact that her eyes were dancing.
Unlike Joely, I had quite a hard time with Jeimes. I had to keep an eye on him and make sure he would not run off, which he managed to do every once in a while. I could not blame him. It was getting hotter by the minute. Other kids got restless too, and the demand for water was fast rising. I had to go up and down the stage for the supply.
Then there was Beam - a tight-lipped loner. He was taller than I, with a skin a hue darker than Joely's. I kept encouraging him to join the games so he would not get bored and be another runaway Jeimes.
I was surprised I was having fun with the sack race though my only role was to scream. And yes, there was the job of picking up a kid or two at every stumble. I had to hold their IDs and nametags so they could move freely and enjoy the game without being distracted.
Jeimes shunned away from me even at lunchtime. I thought he would grow up as a man with his own mind. I told him to roam around and help me find Beam. Instead, he stayed put. Reverse Psychology…of course! I eventually won the cute one over.
Beam, on the other hand, would lower his head every time I would speak to him. He was, however, a gentleman. He helped in carrying boxes of Zesto and other stuff.
All of a sudden I became everybody's sis. Kids took turns in pulling me to their side. They huddled close to me and they didn't even touch my hair! They would lean to me and ask me questions such as what grade I was in (kids don't know much about high school and especially college).
I answered that I was already working. Joely looked shocked. To make sure I was telling the truth she asked me if I finished grade one, grade two. . . and so on. When another kid declared that I would soon get married, Joely verified it to me again with sullen expression on her face. I couldn't help but laugh. I was in Pluto where marriage is concerned.
Then came Jollibee and the angels around me, who were hanging on my every word, morphed into mobsters. I had to help my fellows keep the kids at bay. They were murdering the poor mascot. It was a nightmare on Jollibee's poor butt. Only when he had gone back to his truck did the kids become human at last. They asked me if Jollibee was a man and not really a mutated oversized bee that could dance. I looked at their expectant faces, and replied in a manner they could understand, laugh at, yet always remember. I told them that Jollibee was also human and that he could also get hurt. Kamo bay tabangag sumbag di ba mo mabun-og, I told them. If you were the one being punched to death, wouldn't you be all black and blue? They laughed, but their faces gentled with a new light.
I actually enjoyed being with the kids. I got lots of hugs. I never felt so alive and so young for such a long time.
Before leaving, Joely asked if she would see me again. I told her yes, if she would be a good girl and that, she promised. She gave me a great big hug though she only managed to wrap her hands around my waist. But this she told me: Ate She, you're a very good person. I wish you were my sister.
Does a six-year-old lie? I wondered. Why did I ever say I hate kids? Perhaps it was because I was scared of the responsibilities and commitment but then, I'm no longer a nine-year-old.
Sheryl Joy Olaño is a junior editor of publishing company CannonCreek Asia Inc. , where she deals with business news. A journalism graduate, she is a contributor of newspaper Sun Star Daily Cebu and a staffer of The Write Spot. She also writes for The Naked Press, Writers Gate and Writing Village. A former literary and copyeditor of the Masscom Coordinates’ magazine, an award-winning feature and essay writer and correspondent for the Police Beat of another newspaper The Freeman in her college days. She writes short stories, poetry and essays as a hobby.